Oak Ridge Human Medical Experimentation Lawsuit Docs
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Doctors tortured patients at Ontario mental-health centre, judge rules
Globe and Mail, Jun 7, 2017
Patients at a maximum-security mental-health facility in Ontario were tortured by medical doctors over a 17-year period in unethical and degrading human experiments, a judge has ruled in a lawsuit.
The techniques used on the patients between 1966 and 1983 included solitary confinement, as treatment and as punishment; the administration of hallucinogens and delirium-producing drugs, including LSD; and brainwashing methods developed by the CIA, according to Justice Paul Perell of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice.
Some of the patients at the Oak Ridge division of the Penetanguishene mental-health centre in central Ontario had been charged with crimes such as rape, murder and child abuse, and had been found not guilty by reason of insanity; others had simply been committed by their doctors. The Oak Ridge doctors contended that with intensive therapy the patients could someday be freed. An estimated 1,260 patients spent time in the program between roughly 1965 and 1979.
Danny Joanisse, now 61, was placed in Oak Ridge just before turning 15, and spent most of the next 34 years inside. One part of his treatment for his borderline personality disorder was "the Capsule Program," in which up to seven patients were cuffed to one another and placed naked in a small, windowless, continually lit room for days on end, and given food through a straw in the wall.
In an interview, Mr. Joannise described rebelling and being placed in solitary confinement for several days at a time. He said he was tied up in a "turkey" position, with his ankles cuffed to each other and tied to his waist, and left in that position for two weeks. "The pain was unbearable," he said. "All I know is, I'll never get back what I lost."
The doctors being sued said the aim was to force the patients to undergo self-discovery and take responsibility for their behaviour; the drugs were intended to remove their defence mechanisms. Dr. Barker himself, in a paper he published in 1968, raised the spectre of Nazi experiments on human beings and said his own experiments were different.
"If the process were one of eradicating a set of disapproved ideas and washing in different social values, then we would be committing offences as grievous as those involved in setting up the Third Reich – indeed, the more sinister, because of their subtlety." The difference, he wrote, was that the patients had not chosen their values. "On the other hand, if our patients did not choose to deviate from society's norms, but rather were driven to such deviations by internal unresolved conflicts, then we should help them to resolve such conflicts by every means at our disposal, including force, humiliation and deprivation, if necessary."
Justice Perell was clearly appalled by the paragraph. He opened his ruling with an excerpt from the Hippocratic Oath, and then contrasted it with Dr. Barker's paragraph. He returned to it in discussing a 1978 report commissioned by the Ontario Ombudsman, based on 36 hours spent at the centre over three visits, that found "the impossible is apparently happening – psychopaths are being treated with success." Justice Perell commented dryly: "They apparently agreed … that force, humiliation, deprivation and offences more sinister and grievous than those involved in setting up the Third Reich would help the patients to resolve the internal conflicts that had driven them to deviate from society's norms."
Treatment at mental health facility was ‘torture’: Judge
Toronto Sun, Jun 8, 2017
They were developed at Oak Ridge and administered in part by Dr. Elliott Thompson Barker and Dr. Gary Maier, the two psychiatrists named as plaintiffs in the suit, the ruling said.
Defence Disruptive Therapy (DDT) involved forcibly giving patients hallucinogenic and delirium-producing drugs in order to break down the patients’ defence mechanisms and force them to confront their abnormal behaviour, Perell wrote.
The Motivation, Attitude, Participation Program (MAPP) involved forcing patients to complete 14 days of perfect behaviour, including adhering to rules about “unauthorized talking or movement,” he wrote.
One component of that program involved forcing patients to sit on a bare floor with hands cuffed and only allowing them to move four times within four hours in a confined space of three square feet. Failure to comply could result in forced sedation or being placed in solitary confinement, Perell noted.
The third initiative, called the Capsule Program, involved chaining up to seven people together in a room, stripping them naked, and keeping them in that state for days at a time, Perell said.
The room was continuously lit and featured holes in the walls through which occupants were fed only liquid foods through straws. Patients were kept under constant surveillance and often given hallucinogenic drugs against their will, Perell said.
“The three programs designed by Dr. Barker and implemented by the doctors and other employees of Oak Ridge — even if designed and implemented in good faith and even if the programs could be proven to be in some way therapeutic — were torture and a degradation of human dignity,” Perell wrote in his decision.
“It is an inexcusable breach of fiduciary duty for a physician to torture a patient.”
“I appreciate that apart from professional renown and advancement, there was no self-serving gratification for the defendant physicians at the expense of the plaintiffs,” he wrote.
“But, in my opinion, that does not negate the circumstance that it is a breach of a physician’s ethical duty to physically and mentally torture his patients even if the physician’s decisions are based on what the medical profession at the time counts for treatment for the mentally ill.”
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